Review: Eaten Alive
Blu-ray: Eaten Alive (1976)
How do you follow up The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? A movie that is widely regarded as one of the best horror films ever made. A movie that still terrifies to this day with its depiction of cruelty, despair and shocking violence. In a era of found footage horror films, Texas Chainsaw Massacre still manages to have an authentic almost real feel about it.
Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive, aka, Death Trap, shares similarities to TCM whilst attempting to tell its own tale. Neville Brand plays Judd, the owner of the Starlight Hotel. At first he seems like a kind and gentle character, but this illusion is shattered when a local prostitute comes looking for a place to stay. Things take a turn for the worse and she gets introduced to his pet crocodile, face first.
Judd is a suitably deranged character who babbles and mumbles whilst seemingly struggling with his own sanity. In many ways he appears to be a cross between Leatherface and Jim Siedow’s character from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. His childlike attempts to bond with people quickly explode into violence and depravity.
As the movie plays out visitors come to the hotel and between Judd’s scythe and his crocodile it’s a case of seeing just who will survive.
The effects are ok for the time with some of the deaths ranging from good to a bit dodgy. Keep an eye open for a scythe in the neck as one of the more amusing deaths and you’ll see what I mean. The less said about the crocodile the better!
Some of the acting was a bit over the top to say the least. Mel Ferrer does a decent job as a man looking for his daughter and it was great to see a young Robert Englund playing a character called Buck and in his own words is, “raring to fuck”.
I feel like I should apologise for keep mentioning Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it is hard not to as Eaten Alive seems to desperately want to be that movie. There is even a scene where Judd is chasing a terrified woman though the forest as she runs to a car. Judd is screaming and swinging his scythe above his head which obviously brings back memories of Leatherface. Let me tell you that Judd is no Leatherface!
I suppose the big question I have to answer is did Eaten Alive scare me? Being honest, I thought it was more amusing rather than terrifying. Eaten Alive is suitably grimy and dirty, shot with a mostly red colour palette but this doesn’t necessarily translate into scares on the screen. However there are some uncomfortable scenes where a child witnesses her mother being assaulted and is later chased by Judd. Maybe it’s because I’m a father that scenes like this bother me and I’m overly sensitive, either way I found it difficult to watch.
I think if I’m pressed I would probably recommend Eaten Alive more out of curiosity than anything else. I can’t say I disliked it and I’d even go as far to say that I’m glad I watched it, but I wouldn’t watch it again or say to someone that you DEFINITELY have to see this movie. The fact is that Eaten Alive just doesn’t have the power or brutality of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and there is a reason that it isn’t acknowledged as one of Hooper’s better movies.
The one thing I can recommend without any hesitation is all of the extra content on this packed Blu-ray. We have said it before at 60 Minutes With but it’s worth saying again that Arrow Films really do know how to create the total package in terms of picture, sound and extras. There is a staggering amount of amazing extras and even though I may not be raving about the film, it is worth owning just for the overall comprehensive experience.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
- Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative, approved by director Tobe Hooper
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original Mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary with co-writer and producer Mardi Rustam, actors Roberta Collins, William Finley and Kyle Richards, and make-up artist Craig Reardon
- New introduction to the film by Hooper
- Blood on the Bayou – a brand new interview with Hooper
- Gator Bait – a brand new interview with star Janus Blythe
- Monsters and Metaphors – a brand new interview with make-up artist Craig Reardon
- The Gator Creator – an archive interview with Hooper
- My Name is Buck – an archive interview with star Robert Englund
- 5ive Minutes with Marilyn Burns – the Texas Chain Saw star discusses her role in Eaten Alive
- The Butcher of Elmendorf: The Legend of Joe Ball – featurette looking at the true-life story of the South Texas bar owner on whom Eaten Alive is loosely based
- Original theatrical trailers for the film under its various alternate titles: Eaten Alive, Death Trap, Starlight Slaughter and Horror Hotel
- TV and Radio Spots
- Alternate Opening Titles
- Behind the Scenes Slideshow
- Stills and Promo Material Gallery
- Audience Comment Cards
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Brad Stevens, illustrated with original archive stills and posters